You've invested in a well-fitting pair of running shoes, a breathable tank top or singlet, running socks and the accessories you think you need for your running program. Your pants may be an afterthought, but you don't want to leave home without them or hit the pavement in a pair that chafes or distracts you. Although finding the right pair of running shorts takes on less significance than your shoes -- or for women, the right sports bra -- finding shorts that suit your needs and taste can make a positive impact on your training program.
Just as there are tennis shoes, running shoes and bowling shoes, there are shorts designed specifically for running. Although the primary objective during a run is to accomplish your mileage goal for the day, staying comfortable and dry helps get the job done. Shop a running specialty store to find shorts designed with your sport in mind. Certain types of running shorts may feel too short at first, but there are technical- and comfort-based reasons behind the standard lengths of running shorts.
The Long and Short of It
For the most part, the length of your running shorts comes down to personal preference. The shorter versions do have benefits. The more exposed skin you have, the more body heat you can release. Less material on your legs means less moisture retention, as well as more freedom of movement. If you focus primarily on distance over speed, shorts as long as 7 inches may be appropriate.
What Not to Wear
Shorts that hold moisture are a nightmare during a training or competition run. Avoid cotton or nylon clothing and opt instead for mesh or moisture-wicking material that helps keep you dry and allows heat to escape, advises marathon coach and author Jeff Galloway. Underwear is another consideration when choosing running shorts. True running shorts typically include a built-in liner, rendering undies unnecessary. If you wear them anyway, the material may cause you to hold in heat and become a source of distraction or discomfort during your run.
Other than choosing a lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric and finding a style that suits your personal preferences and running goals, choosing running shorts is a fairly simple process. Try on several pairs until you find some you feel comfortable wearing. For enhanced visibility during early morning or late evening runs, consider investing in a light-colored pair of running shorts. Galloway recommends loose-fitting, lighter clothing to help you release heat during your runs.